Mark Dolliver’s Takes

They’ll have to carry me out feet first! For all the talk of America as a uniquely mobile society, plenty of people are in no rush to change their place of residence. Indeed, the steady rise in the proportion of Americans who own their home (now around seven in 10) tends to slow the population’s mobility, given that renters are always more likely than owners to pull up stakes. The aging of the population also exerts a demobilizing effect. It’s an unwelcome development for marketers, as a move typically stimulates purchasing of everything from new appliances to new flower pots. In Yankelovich polling summarized in the research firm’s Monitor Minute newsletter, people age 16 and up were asked when (if ever) they expect to move from their current domicile. Forty percent answered “never” (or maybe “never!”). At the other end of the spectrum, 15 percent said they’ll move in less than a year and 27 percent in one to five years. As you’d expect, the “never” tally rises with age: 18 percent of the 16-34-year-olds said they’ll stay put, as did 37 percent of the 35-49s, 52 percent of the 50-64s and 74 percent of those 65-plus.

Like it or not, a majority of Americans will slog through winter without a vacation. Just 27 percent of respondents to a Rasmussen Reports poll said they’ll take a winter getaway this year. So, at what time of year will they pack their bags and get out of town? If they have a choice in the matter, a plurality will be inclined to do so in summer. Forty percent cited summer as their favorite season in which to vacation, with spring and fall each picked by 16 percent. Twelve percent picked winter, while the rest didn’t state a preference.

Don’t assume old folks buy the same make of car every time they’re in the market. True, they are more apt to do so than younger folks, finds a study by R.L. Polk & Co. But barely half are brand-stick-in-the-muds. The study looked at people who’d bought their previous car when it was new and returned to the market for another new car. Among those age 65 and older, 51 percent stayed loyal to the same brand. That compares with 44 percent for the total survey sample of adults. Elsewhere in the survey, buyers of new Asian-made cars were particularly loyal: 48 percent stuck with the same brand, as did 44 percent of those who’d bought a domestic car and 37 percent of those who’d bought a European model.

Why just eat food when you can eat “food minus”? A report by Mintel forecasts brisk growth worldwide in product launches and sales for the “food minus” sector—that is, products that feature the reduction or absence of some undesirable element. “Low/no trans fat and gluten-free are the key movers of this category, showing major increases.” By the way, if 2006 was the year of the pomegranate in packaged foods and beverages—and Mintel seems to think it was—2007 is shaping up as the year of the açai, described as “an antioxidant-rich berry.” One other tidbit: While organic products have been a growing factor on the food end of the packaged-goods business, they are now gaining strength in the non-foods category as well, says the report, particularly in Europe and Asia-Pacific.

Good news for the Saint John’s wort industry: A new CBS News survey finds that 38 percent of U.S. adults have used herbal supplements—45 percent of the women, 31 percent of the men. Moreover, 44 percent of all respondents believe such supplements are “generally helpful.” There’s plenty of leeway for their opinions of supplements to change, though, as just 20 percent of those polled said they have heard “a lot” about them.

They may change their minds as they get older and the demands of family accumulate. For now, though, Gen Y women are optimistic that they can pursue careers and embrace domesticity at the same time. In a survey of women age 18-29 commissioned by Lifetime Television, 63 percent gave precedence to “personal” goals, such as “getting married, having children or owning a home”; 23 percent gave priority to “professional” goals, such as “becoming a manager, earning a certain salary or starting a business.” But that scarcely means they’re indifferent to professional success. Seventy-eight percent said they’d choose to work “regardless of their current work or financial situation.” They insist, moreover, that motherhood won’t stop them. Eighty-five percent plan to be in the workforce after having children, and often without much of a break: “Among working Gen Y moms, 73 percent took off six months or less when they had their child.” Sixty-nine percent of the women said they’re “willing to sacrifice to reach the top of their field.” (One wonders, sacrifice what or whom?) And they’re optimistic about getting ahead: “Half expect to be promoted in two years or less.” This all sounds faintly reminiscent of the “have-it-all” mentality that characterized the earlier stage of feminism—a credo later repudiated by many of its original adherents. Time will tell whether the poll’s Gen Y women eventually have second thoughts of their own.

We know that older Americans ingest tons of prescription medicines, such that a vast new federal benefit has been created to defray their costs. Overshadowed is the fact that these folks are avid consumers of over-the-counter remedies as well. We get a picture of this market (with respect to the 50-and-older age cohort) from a survey by AARP and the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine at the National Institutes of Health. As you can see from the chart, intake of over-the-counter medications is more the rule than the exception in this age group. Simple arithmetic tells us there’s lots of overlap between their OTC regimens and their usage of prescription drugs, since just 25 percent of respondents said they weren’t taking any of those. Fourteen percent were taking one prescription drug, 23 percent were taking two or three, 16 percent four or five, and 20 percent more than five.